A Steam Feature I’d Like to See: Local ‘SteamApps’ Distribution

Posted on April 17, 2014 8:30 AM by Rob Williams

At this point in time, I’d have to consider Valve’s Steam client to be “fantastic”. A year ago? I would have had a hard time making such a statement. Back then, I felt that Steam was too lacking in the “common sense” department. Case-in-point: The lacking ability to throttle downloads, or prevent a download from stopping just because you start a game up. Of course, both of those issues have since been tackled. As time passes, Steam just continues to get better and better – and it’s a good thing. A lot of us are quite wrapped into it at this point.

Despite just how great Steam is at the moment, I can’t help but feel like it could be a lot better. After all, it’s been around for over 10 years, and it wasn’t until just last year when I felt like the great updates were really pouring in. To me, it almost felt like Valve had been resting on its laurels, but when an influx of new users came in, thanks in part to all of the mechanics it had been adding to its website, the realization hit that the client could be a lot better. And then came Big Picture, and then SteamOS. I am sure it’s thanks to those features in particular that we now have download throttling and other recent features.

Linux Steam Client - Library

One thing I would love to see added to Steam is the ability to stream “SteamApps” files between PCs on a local network. Yes – that needs a bit more explaining, so here it is:

Picture, for example, that Steam PC #1 has PAYDAY 2 up-to-date. Someone hops on Steam PC #2 to play the game, but it’s 1GB or more out-of-date. On a slow Internet connection – something I have to deal with – that’s painful. It takes a solid 40 minutes or so for that 1GB to download. You could risk copying files over from the other PC manually, but that’s not intuitive, and it risks the chance that something will go wrong.

With local distribution, Steam PC #2 could pop-up a message: “TG-MAIN’s PAYDAY 2 installation is up-to-date.”, and then offer two options: “Download update from Web“, and “Download update from TG-MAIN“. If the local update is chosen, then it would pop-up a message on that PC, asking the user to give the a-OK.

The usefulness of a feature like this isn’t just limited to a household – LAN parties could benefit just the same.

Wherever network solutions are concerned, security issues are sure to come into play, but the fact of the matter is, Steam already has a number of solutions like this. The big one is being able to stream an entire game from one PC to another. Surely, then, a feature could be added that would allow a game to update from a local PC.

In a situation like this, it’d save both Valve bandwidth, and the local user a lot of precious time.

What do you think? Do you have any Steam feature ideas you’d like to see implemented?

  • http://aiusepsi.co.uk aiusepsi

    The improvements to Steam’s downloading capabilities aren’t anything to do with SteamOS or anything like that, but because they totally rebuilt the entire system on both the server and client sides from the ground up, and then migrated everything acoss to the new system. They started on that path a long time ago:

    See: http://store.steampowered.com/news/5856/

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      Good catch. It struck me as a major coincidence given it was all happening at once. Once Big Picture came out, major advancements seemed to come soon after.

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